Pit Bull Problems
[RE: Feature, “Not So Beastly,” July 6-12]
Christie Chisholm's article on Pit Bulls was superficial and tendentious journalism.
She implied that, although pit bulls account for 20% of dog bites in the city (no mention of their relative severity), this statistic isn't too bad, since the breed appears to comprise over 25% of the dog population. Upon what is this assumption based? Amazingly, a tally of the dogs that have been picked up on the street or otherwise found their way to the pound (A.K.A. the "Animal Care Center.") And this passed the muster of the Alibi editors!
She refutes the claim that pit bulls have a particularly powerful bite, or that their jaws are capable of locking, citing a study by a National Geographic scientist. Then, without apology, she backpedals, in an astounding feat of parenthetical prevarication, to say that they "have a tendency to hold on and not let go when they bite--giving the impression that they have uncanny strength or that their jaws lock." She goes on briefly and glibly to catalog the antisocial tendencies that give pits their reputation. They don't warn other dogs of an attack, they try to inflict mortal damage to any dog they attack, rather than using aggression merely to dominate or control, and are even known to "disembowel" supine dogs that are signaling their submission--dogs that demonstrably pose no danger. Aww, how cute is that! From that point on the manifest danger pits pose to other dogs is conveniently buried.
I was appalled by Ms. Chisholm's willingness to resort to demagoguery. She cites a City Councilor in Aurora Colorado, who was part of an effort to match neighboring Denver's law banning pit bulls. Why? Clearly because he did not want the pit bull problem exported to Aurora. But the way Christie Chisholm puts it, with a clever use of embedded quotation marks, he could easily be seen as racist. He is quoted as saying "We don't want 'those people' here." Who added the emphasis on "those people," an otherwise innocent combination of article and noun? Only C.C. knows for sure.
I could go on about the lax reporting, the many imbedded assumptions and the egregious preponderance of anecdotal and apocryphal material in support of the poor, maligned, and oh-so-American dog breed, but let me instead share an experience I had: one that I have since discovered is by no means unique.
I adopted my dog, a mix breed, at the Humane Society. I spent several days playing and interacting with many dogs, including pits and pit bull crosses, before making my choice based purely on compatibility. We did two puppy classes together, and I read a number of books on dog care and training. When my dog was about four years old, a neighbor up the street adopted a young pit. My dog was famously friendly and forbearing with all dogs, including puppies, so in due time I invited her over for a doggy "play date." We stood at a slight distance when our dogs met, so as not to interfere with their dynamic. To my surprise, they sniffed each other briefly and showed no further interest, merely wandering on their own in the yard. After a few minutes trying to cajole them to play, we were preparing to end the session. At that point, the two dogs happened to walk by each other, about 5 feet apart. Without so much as a murmur, the eight-month old pit female lunged at my dog, and in one motion, closed her jaws on his head and pinned him to the ground. I leaped onto her to keep her from tearing at him and attempted to pry her jaws open. After perhaps two minutes with this dog clamped under my knee and elbow, and no progress to show for it, and my dog whimpering and bleeding all the while, I had a minor inspiration. Without thinking it over, I bit her on the ear, pretty much as hard as I could. Open sesame!
My fingers were bleeding from the nails and throbbing painfully as I prepared to head to the Vet to have my dog's rip and puncture wounds tended to. One of my neighbor's approached to help us into my car and offered the following advice: "Yer lucky it was just a puppy...you never woulda separated them otherwise....that's like cracking a rock...there's only one way to make a full grown pit let go once they bite." He waited for me to ask and said, "What you need is a lead pipe to the balls." I guess he hadn't noticed that the attacker had the wrong anatomy. I was relieved to return from the Vet's with a little under 20 stitches and for a little under 200 dollars, but my dog was traumatized for some time, and will always turn the other way when he sees a bit bull approaching. I gladly do the same.
I have since witnessed two other pit attacks, one to a friend's dog in Roosevelt Park, and heard of several others. I have seen many other dogs bite, but I have never seen another dog strike with anything approaching the cold-blooded intensity or dire effect, not to mention the arbitrariness, of a pit bull.
I would prefer to keep my name anonymous, because I know how stubborn and aggressive some pit lovers can be. The vet's assistant who removed my dog's stitches was priceless. She refused to believe that my dog had not provoked the pit bull. When we left that afternoon, she said, ostensibly to my dog, in that sickly-sweet way insincere people use, "Don't go picking any more fights now!" Cute, eh? I'd like to be left alone by the pit lovers and especially by their dogs. And, needless to say, I'd prefer it if no further pit bulls were euthanized OR created. They are not a species, like their lovingly cited ancestor, the Wolf. They were created by man for one reason: to do maximum damage to each other and to other animals, and they can be phased out by man for the simple reason that this is no longer a desirable trait.
There are some sweet pits out there with good owners: I've met them, too. But breeding will out, and no one can be sure when or where. Meanwhile, the breed itself attracts many troubled owners with "something to prove." As for the vicious toy poodles and chihuahuas that your former letter writer cites, let me know when they really hurt someone. I personally think that all inbred animals are a cruel abomination, but let's take care of one problem at a time.